The First Purge
So, Fourth of July just passed by and people are still celebrating with The First Purge. The Purge series is phenomenal, one which I never thought would have amounted to anything after seeing the first move. I remember I reviewed the Purge Anarchy which I liked way more than The Purge and then the third installment The Purge Election Year I have still yet to see so, you know the Jury is still out on that. But from what I know of the series right now is this: Anarchy and The First Purge are neck and neck as my personal favorites. Beg pardons to the original.
The First Purge stars Y’lan Noel (Insecure) as Dimitri, Lex Scott Davis (Superfly, Training Day *Series) as Nya and Joivan Wade (The Weekend Movie, Eastenders *Series) as Isaiah. Like the previous movies, we start off with a countdown to the deadly night. Not yet known as the Purge the night is simply noted as The Experiment. They are introducing the idea of 12 hours with no laws and no consequences for anything including murder for one night. The Experiment is due to take place on Staten Island and the residences there are, of course, outraged by this. At the top of this outraged mob is Nya who heads the way for the many protestors trying to get NFFA out of their neighborhood. NFFA are the bolts and gears behind the experiment. The boss behind them? Arlo Sabian, not a good man, Played by Patch Darragh (The Depths, Sully, The Visit). But there’s another side to this fight, the poor civilians who the NFFA are paying $5,000 to stay on the island and a nice bonus for participating. Nya’s younger brother who only wants a better life for him and his sister is one of the many poor civilians who are roped into this deal. Then there’s Dimitri the head drug dealer who runs the streets of Staten Island. Even though a night of free crime would be beneficial for him he states early in the morning that he’s against the Experiment. Why? Because he doesn’t trust it. Good instincts right there.
So, the usual storyline that the Purge movies share is that everyone thinks they can avoid the night by staying someplace they deem a safe haven. That’s what happens here as well. Dimitri is held up in his fortress in the more expensive part of town (the dope life pays well). Nya is at the community church and Isaiah is sent to stay with their Uncle off Staten Island. Except he’s not going to his Uncles. He’s staying on the island to earn that $5,000 and an additional bonus by joining in the Purge! But that doesn’t exactly go as planned when Isaiah immediately goes from the hunter to the hunted. He calls his big sister for help who immediately goes out in search of him and when Dimitri finds his fortress compromised by people from his own gang he’s out for the night too. But it’s more than just the survival of these three individuals along with their neighbors and friends. It’s also what’s going on behind the operation. The NFFA are watching the whole Purge go down and they are determined to make it a success whether you want to participate or not.
Director Gerrard McMurry (Burning Sands, Battle Buddy) isn’t trying to sugar coat anything with the First Purge it’s a race war. Plain as day. He’s taking the growing problem of today and putting it on the big screen for all to see. Take it as another suspense thriller if you want but the undertones are quite clear. The very beginning of the movie we have an extreme close up of green-eyed level headed white man and an extreme close up of an aggravated mostly unhinged black man. The only thing that was missing was the VS. sign in between them. I like the message. It’s bad and it’s getting worse and we need to pay attention to that.
The characters were great. There’s a very light lover’s past between Nya and Dimitri and some fun comic reliefs and guess what? They don’t die at the end! Which is great I guess…but you don’t really feel like there’s much to lose. For one example Nya and Isiah spend the night racing through the streets to try to get home (with some other minor characters) and they go through all these close shaves before they finally make it to their apartment. When they get there, they run into Nya’s neighbor who knocks on the door and says, “I’ve been running around all night out there looking for you guys!” She’s totally composed not a strand of hair out-of-place her purse still upright on her shoulder…really? She was out there in all that Purge madness looking for them? She looked like she went for a nice stroll to the supermarket and back. Yeah…so no stress about your characters dying here. Except maybe a character that you saw one time at the beginning of the movie whose name you already forgot. But I loved the message and I loved the characterization and all in all it’s still a decent ride through a dark night where murder has no consequences and we get to see how it all started.
Rated R for strong disturbing violence throughout, pervasive language, some sexuality and drug use.
Rotten Tomatoes has The First Purge at a 52% Fresh. It’s barely holding on but still worth it in my opinion.
My favorite characters were Skeletor who became an accidental hero at the end and the old homeless women who kept playing ‘Whip It’ as they purged and were somehow clever enough to make bombs out of teddy bears. Yeah, it got weird. See the movie you’ll know what I mean. Whether in theaters or at home it doesn’t really make a difference, but I do advise you to watch. It’s worth, at the very least, that much.